First of all, what is “quiet time?” When I use that term, I’m referring to time spent praying and reading the Bible. I was very involved in my youth group in middle school and high school, and that’s when I really started to put my faith into practice. My youth minister always taught me that as a Christian, it’s not enough to just go to church on Sundays. For your faith to really grow, it’s vital that you spend time with God on your own. Quiet time has looked different for me in different seasons. It’s also the area of my walk with the Lord where I have struggled the most. I wanted to share with you what has worked best for me through the years. If this is something you’ve never done but would like to start, I hope this post will give you an idea of where to begin. If you too have struggled in this area, I hope this post will be encouraging.
The Summer Project Quiet Time
In college, I was part of a student ministry called Cru. Through that organization, I went on a summer mission project where, removed from all distractions, I participated in bible studies, had a summer job, and met for discipleship with a mentor. I came back the following summer as a student staffer. In our schedule, we had times blocked off on many days where we would have “dates with Jesus.” We went somewhere and just got alone with God and prayed, journaled, listened, and read the Bible with no time crunch. Needless to say, those were some of the most profound quiet times I’ve ever had. I have such sweet, vivid memories of those times and it was in that stillness that God spoke to me through His word, through the voice of the Holy Spirit, and through other people I was around. There are two pieces of wisdom I’ve taken away from those experiences:
1) If you really want to hear God’s voice and cultivate the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can’t expect him to shout through the noise. Sometimes you have to fight the busy-ness and carve out time to just be with him. When you seek out God’s presence, he will speak to you.
2) Not every quiet time is going to be profound. When you practice a discipline over a lifetime, not every single day is going to feel like your world is being rocked. I struggled for a long time feeling like my day-to-day quiet times were inadequate, and I ultimately let that discourage me from doing them at all. But the truth is, life is not a mission trip, even though we are on mission. There are going to be distractions and responsibilities that make time with the Lord something you have to fight for. But it’s those little moments that build up and create space in your life for the Holy Spirit to speak and work. Time with the Lord on the days you don’t “feel like it,” or the days that are busy, or the days where you don’t know what to pray…that is the spiritual discipline that sanctifies and builds a faith you can lean on during the hard days that will inevitably come.
Reading through the Bible
In seasons of my life where I have a bit more margin and can dedicate more time to Bible reading, I read through books of the Bible. I’ve found that for me personally, doing things like a Bible in a year reading plan are not as fruitful because they start to feel like homework. I get really discouraged and get so focused on getting all the material in that I’m not reflecting on what I’m reading. If you are a person who is motivated by a challenge, those types of plans may be just the thing you need to get excited about reading the Bible daily! For me, it works better if I just choose a book of the Bible to focus on and read through it without giving myself a time frame.
I am not a morning person AT. ALL. I have honestly tried and it’s just not the way I’m wired. With that being the case, there are seasons where the thought of diving deeply into the Word first thing in the morning feels very daunting. Some seasons are busier than others. This is where I have found devotionals to be helpful. I prefer devotionals that have a lot of substance and are more a commentary on the Scripture reading for the day rather than just a pithy little pep talk. In choosing a devotional, pay closer attention to the focus on the Bible rather than who the devotion is being marketed to. I’m not trying to read Chicken Soup for the 20-something-newlywed-cat mom’s Soul. I want something that really focuses my mind on God’s word and illuminates it in a way that gives me practical application.
I know writing in a journal isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but I can honestly say that for me, journaling changed the game. My mind is always racing, and I battle a lot of anxiety. Writing out my prayers has helped me to stay focused, and it has been a sweet way to reflect on answered prayers. I also use my prayer journal to take sermon notes at church, so everything the Lord is teaching me is all in one place. What tends to work for me is to read and pray in the morning and then journal in the evening when my mind is more clear and I can reflect on the day.
I know that got a little long, but I hope this was helpful to those of you who are trying to cultivate this discipline in your own lives. If you fall into that category, what resources have been helpful to you? What has worked and what hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you here or on Instagram!